Are your drains blocked, cracked or broken? Are your sewers causing you serious structural problems or is the fix a quick one you can tackle yourself? Follow our guide to finding a solution for both small and serious problems.
By Caroline Rodrigues
For sink, bath or shower blockages due to hair or grease, using proprietary cleaners, plunging or unscrewing the trap for a good clear out can do the trick, but blockages don't just occur inside and good, regular maintenance is essential. Outside the house, leaves blocking a downpipe can be hoiked out, and blockages rodded away fairly easily. But if you suspect more serious problems you’ll have to call in the professionals.
Signs of drain problems include:
Where shall we start? A straightforward blockage is likely but underlying causes could be general deterioration of pipes and joints due to age.
As the water leaks away from a pipe, it takes soil with it, resulting in soft ground and sometimes subsidence. If neighbouring properties are also affected by drain problems, or if there’s widespread flooding, the problem could be from the sewer.
Home owners are responsible for drains up to the point where pipework meets public sewers. If you call the local water company (find yours at Water UK) they will confirm whether blocked pipework belongs to them (in which case they will clear it) and they may offer a private clearing service for the section that’s your responsibility. Check your house insurance to see if you are covered for problems with drains.
The local authority: if you suspect the problem isn’t on your property but perhaps is coming from a neighbouring one, contact your local environmental health department for advice. The authority has powers to investigate the matter, carry out repairs and recover costs from the home owner.
Water companies: drains carry waste from toilets, bathrooms and kitchens from your home. Sewers take this waste plus surface water away from more than one property. At present sewers can be publicly or privately maintained. If publicly maintained, repairs and maintenance are the job of the local water company. From a proposed date of October 2011, private sewers will be the responsibility of the water companies. Until then, a private sewer is the joint responsibility of the properties that drain into it, up to the point where it joins a public sewer. Private sewers may run through gardens rather than under the road so you could be responsible for drainage pipes beneath a neighbour’s land. Ask your local council whether the sewer is privately owned.
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